The word "expository" comes from the word "expose". And, in the tightest of definitions, the expository essay refers to those types of essays that explain, reveal, or analyze. So, the goal of this essay type is to take a topic and provide the reader with a clear and detailed look. Such an essay might explain how an internal combustion engine works; it might describe in detail a character from a novel or movie, moreover, it might analyze the issues related to stem cell research. In short, this essay type is wide-ranging in topic and in purpose.
Expert Advice on Writing an Expository Essay
Expository essays come in three primary types. These are a) the academic type that are mainly used for scholarly purposes – this type examines or describes a process in a detailed manner, b) the type that analyzes a given concept – this type explores and describes an event or existing text, and c) the type that describes a process or method and/or provides comprehensive instructions on how to complete or apply that process or method.
It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between the different types of expository writing. However, it all gets clearer once a topic has been identified and the writer finds an effective way to build their argument around that topic.
Main Points to Take Into Account
- Explaining or describing a process or procedure does not have to be tedious or boring. Devise some interesting means for presenting your materials without overwhelming your readers with excessive detail.
- Choose various elements of your topic for the purpose of comparing and contrasting these e.g. compare the different techniques used in creating literature or the different methods used by individual scholars or subject matter experts.
- If you decide to use the “cause/effect” style, make sure you match pairs correctly and support your examples with citations to prove the reliability of your point(s) and their relevancy to your chosen topic.
- If you are trying to classify something, make sure your writing is clear, concise, and simple.
- Any examples you choose to illustrate, demonstrate, or support your argument(s) should be appropriate. A good way of determining the suitability of an example is to put your own argument(s) to yourself. If you are successful, your example is not appropriate.
- The process of defining something is not as easy as copying a dictionary description. A lot of writers begin their book and journal articles without referring to a dictionary. Instead, they use clever and/or well-chosen quotes.
What to Do and Not Do
- Decide on a topic and expository method at the outset.
- Read selected source materials thoroughly.
- Use philosophical techniques e.g. logic, inference, and deduction to back up your claims.
- Demonstrate what it is you intend to describe or explain.
- Paraphrase source materials in an efficient and precise manner when you use these.
- Avoid generalizations since these tend to destroy arguments.
- Try not to lose sight of your thoughts.
- Do not criticize an event or text in an overly active or overly negative subjective way.
- Do not make unsubstantiated statements. Use credible quotes and referenced facts.
- Avoid magazine-type prose, colloquialisms, truisms, hackneyed examples, and popular rhetoric. Your writing should have an academic tone.
- New materials should not be introduced in your conclusion paragraph.
- Do not forget to check and polish your written work and the validity of your argument(s) at the end.
Frequently Made Mistakes
- Developing an entire expository paper on just one opinion – your own. You should include other or alternative perspectives, and these should be properly supported with credible source material.
- Writing in an emotive style. Choose language that is unemotional, carefully calculated, well reasoned, and fully supported.
- Not using a sufficiently academic tone.
- Altering your viewpoint as your argument develops. Allowing your opinion to sway between different pieces of research indicates poor discipline.
- Poor (or no) planning.
- The use of vocabulary that is imprecise and/or irrelevant. In expository writing, the vocabulary needs to fit with the subject matter and its discipline.
- An excessive amount of references or too little. Writers should not overload their essays with excessive quotes and facts. Four sources - and no more - is sufficient for essays that are under 2,000 words in length. Likewise, four references are not enough for longer papers i.e. those with more than 5,000 words.
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